The Godhead And Interfaithism
Presented in series as “For the Love of Truth”
Rev. Mike Chance
20th and 21st Centuries
100 years ago the church was facing modernism. Modernism was a worldview based on the belief that only science could explain reality. It thought that nothing supernatural was real. Modernism was the enemy of the church.
The problem is that, if nothing supernatural was real then even the virgin birth of Jesus was error according to them. Yet there were people at the beginning of the 20th century who was convinced that modernism and Christianity could be reconciled together. They said if the church did not embrace modernism that Christianity would not survive the 20th century. They said the church would become more and more irrelevant. So they began to preach a social gospel in place of the real gospel. Look back in history and see how the churches and denominations that embraced modernism’s ways were the ones that became irrelevant and all but died out. You can still see their giant stone buildings that lie empty as a testimony to the deadliness of compromise. Now modernism is thought of as yesterday’s thinking.
The dominant worldview today in both secular and academic circles is called Postmodernism.
Postmodernism has repudiated modernisms confidence in science
* It has no interest in absolute truth.
* It insists that there is no such thing as absolute, objective or universal truth.
* It says that it is impossible for objective truth to be known.
* Reality is whatever an individual imagines it to be.
* What is true is subjectively decided by every individual.
* There is no truth that applies to every human being universally.
* That it is wrong to argue whether point A is superior to point B.
* After all, reality is simply the construction of ones mind.
* One person’s perspective of truth is just as valid as the others.
The postmodern view occupies itself with trying to understand the other person’s view.
Note that this is where the danger begins. This is where pitfalls occur
The postmodern view says:
* That understanding each other’s view means that we have to disavow the possibility of knowing any truth at all.
* That truth becomes just a personal opinion.
* That every opinion should be shown equal respect.
Postmodernism and interfaithism is driven by a broadminded desire for tolerance and harmony. The only thing not tolerated in this view is any view that any truth is the same for all men. So, the so-called tolerant religious world itself practices intolerance.
Most church members do not recognize the dangers that are emerging. Yet we are seeing churches denounce long held truths. Ministers are going to feel good sermons or acceptable subjects.
It is a no-no to preach anything that makes someone feel condemnation or conviction.
* Messages are being toned down.
* Many preachers shy away from declaring the Bible to b the only truth.
* Looking down on those who say there is exclusively one way to be saved.
Let me give you the language God uses about an exclusive way or one way.
John 14:6 Acts 4:12 John 3:36
I Timothy 2:5 I John 5: 1-12 John 3:3-6
These are universal truths that apply to every man.
The postmodern view is that we must never consider anybody else’s opinion
wrong and that we have to accept every belief as valid. That is why traditional values are disappearing and new values are taking their place.
Tolerance is never listed in the Bible as a virtue
* What was once forbidden is now encouraged.
* What was once considered immoral is now celebrated.
* Marital infidelity and divorce have been normalized.
* Profanity is common place.
* Abortion, homosexuality and moral perversion are championed by large Advocacy groups with voting power and they are promoted by the media.
Postmodernists say there is no absolute truth and that if it is, it is unknowable. It says that we are not supposed to think our truths are valid for anybody else.
Look at some startling evidence of how deep this is ingrained in our society
Two months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, former President Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown University. He suggested that “America’s own arrogant self-righteousness was partly to blame for making the nation a target of terrorism.” He said, “the whole mess could have been avoided if everyone on both sides could simply realize that there is no such thing as absolute or universal truth, and therefore no ideology is worth fighting over.”
* “Nobody’s got the truth” he told students. “You’re at a university that basically believes that no one ever has the whole truth, ever.”
* He said “incapable of ever having the whole truth.”
And he said “the terrorists are being brutal and intolerant only because they have the truth whereas our society’s more tolerant attitudes are rooted in an understanding that absolute truth is unknowable. Because we don’t believe you.
In other words, to hold strong beliefs about anything is deemed inherently intolerant, even evil. After all he is saying, if we believe we have the truth, then we become as evil as the.
The Apostle Paul had a different view
I Timothy 6:3-4
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing:
In Paul’s day, there were religious men who sought leadership but were not concerned with full truth. They made up an appealing message as they went. They were looking to be relevant to all the people. Their teaching twisted the truth and so Paul began to speak:
II Timothy 2:16-19
Notice, Paul did not mind naming the individuals. He did not attempt to refrain from offending these men. He was contending for the faith.
They needed to be identified and answered!!! It is the opinion of this
speaker that we need that kind of spirit in a postmodern world. We have lost our focus on the need to contend for the faith. The worldview is that it is ill mannered to argue over points of doctrine.
But Paul refused to allow the truth to be tarnished, even by brethren amongst his own.
We are facing a choice:
* Either go along with the prominent postmodern interfaith view.
* Or use the authority of scripture and set ourselves against this error in religious circles.
Either we believe that truth has authority or we don’t.
The trendy new way to handle differing points of view is to speak of the clash of our views as dialogue. Every time a conflict between Christianity and another view collide someone will call for a dialogue between advocate leaders from both sides of the issue.
In recent days, evangelical leaders have dialogued with many non-Christian leaders. The problem is that the goal of the dialogue is usually to minimize the difference between us instead of drawing lines of distinction.
We must handle these differing doctrines the Bible way.
2 Cor. 10: 4-6
There is a new name for the new perspective of postmodern religious men. It is called the Hermeneutics of Humility.
Example: A syllabus describing this as a proposed course in a large religious seminary says this: The course seeks to help students formulate a new theology and methods that are relevant and meaningful in the pluralistic, multicultural, postmodern world in which they are called to minister. It is basically an attempt to articulate a hermeneutic based on dialogue, a sincere effort to go beyond the limits of ones own worldview, that is, a hermeneutic of humility.
Another advocate of this view writes:
Christians must distill the valuable insights of postmodernism with its multicultural, deconstructed culture. We need to glean from this radical critique what is fitting for a renewed Christian culture vision developing a hermeneutic humility. We need to provide an example of a non-triumphalist, listening, confessing cultural science.
As for me, I choose to follow Paul’s instructions to a young preacher that speaks the mind of God
Titus 2:1 (KJV)
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine
Don’t let anyone evade you; don’t let anyone circumvent truth; preach sound doctrine! Preach and teach truth with authority! Confront or rebuke people who oppose truth!!
These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
Despise in the original is “kataphroneo” and it means “to think” around.”
In order for me to address the apologetics of truth, I must first have you understand the meaning of apologetics and then examine some of the history of truth and its apologists.
The term apologetics is defined as a systematic argumentative discourse in defense of a doctrine. It simply means defense of the faith.
Those who vigorously and aggressively refute the opinions, concepts and principles that are contrary to truth are called in the theological world, polemic.
I will confess to you that I am by definition a preacher who is a polemic apologist for the truth of the apostle’s doctrine. I further acknowledge that I desire to ground our church in an exclusive truth that is unchangeable by contemporary religion.
I have the same determination for this church as the writer of the book of Jude.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
We, as a church, have an obligation to God and the world. We are obligated to God according to His Word.
2 Timothy 2:14-15
We are obligated to the world around us.
I Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
We have the truth and the truth will make men free. Therefore, we cannot deviate from truth or change truth to compliment the times we live in.
Let’s talk about truth from a theological standpoint for a moment. Two questions always arise in every generation.
1. What is truth?
2. Is absolute truth a possibility?
The study of truth dominates theological thinking because truth is at the very center of religious faith.
There are three theories of truth in evidence in today’s religious community.
1. The correspondence theory of truth.
It understands truth to be that which corresponds with fact and is both objective and absolute. This concept of truth corresponds with reality.
It operates on a level of certainty that cuts through subjective opinion.
2. The coherence theory of truth.
Coherence meaning that the more systematically coherent our beliefs are, the truer they are. If a system of thought does not contradict itself, then it is a mark of truth.
The problem with this is that you may construct a system of thought that does not contradict itself yet it is not aligned with the absolute truth of the bible.
3. The pragmatic theory of truth.
It argues that what is true is that which works for you. It offers a modern electiveness which is attractive to today’s world.
This theory is the one that leaves out the question of morals.
When we try to answer the question about what is truth. We find some surprising studies.
Example: George Barna’s study found that 66% of all Americans deny the existence of absolute truth.
One of the noted theological researchers named three dominant sociological trends in contemporary American culture. He said these three trends have shaped modern life and thought.
1. Secularization – The process by which sectors of society and culture are removed from the domination of religious institutions and symbols. Through this process the church is losing its influence as a shaper of life and thought in a wider social order. ‘
* No prayer in school.
* No Bibles in school.
* Ten commandment statues removed from a state capital.
I read of a prison chaplaincy system that had four divisions that ran on Christian principles and were very successful in preventing repeat offenders. They are under the threat of closure now because the view has been taken by those in charge that Christianity is no different from any other religion and must be given no privileged position. They said, “All faiths had to be treated alike.”
One school system has some of its assemblies being given over to Buddhism. The head of the school made this observation. All religions lead to God, so why not give our students a choice.
In the past, the church was the dominant institution in every community. In today’s society, morality and truth are often the property of the media. Television either tells people what to think or what to think about.
People are exposed to:
* An estimated 1,500 commercial messages per day.
* They choose from over 10,000 magazines, 6,000 radio stations and 400 television stations.
Howard K. Smith, former commentator for ABC Television estimated that at least 4/5 of what the average citizen continues to learn about the world after leaving school comes filtered through observations of journalists.
Secularization has removed the gospel from the daily dialogue of the world.
2. Privatization – Has made religion not a matter of absolute truth but of individual choice. This religious approach is limited to specific circles of social life that is segregated from the secularized circles.
It is the process by which modernizing of religion produces a separation between the public and the private spheres of life.
This simply means a person can suspend or ignore their faith in the face of business, politics, or even marriage and the home. After all my faith is a private thing and has nothing to do with the rest of my life in business, etc.
This makes the truth of any faith a matter of personal preference.
3. Pluralization – Means that man is confronted with a wide variety of religions and other reality defining agencies that compete for his attention and allegiance.
Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia lists over 20,000 denominations worldwide with over 2,000 in the United States alone.
Pluralization is a new consciousness of a new parity among religions. It means there are many and varying convictions including “value pluralism”. This is the belief that all convictions about values are of equal validity.
* This says in effect that no convictions about values have any validity. It creates a mindset that all people should universally accept diversity to the point that all values are relative and that no one perspective or religious persuasion has the inside track on truths about God and the supernatural.
* It is a smorgasbord mentality in constructing personal beliefs. What is syncretism?
* It is the attempted reconciliation of opposing principles or practices. Syncretism says that philosophies and values should be absorbed from an element of your culture which may not be consistent with core beliefs. It is the conscious effort to select from various sources.
* Syncretism leads to a reducing of the beliefs of a common core of a group to a simple feeling of goodwill or a simple ethical code.
The World Book Encyclopedia says, “If justice is done to the particularities, diversity remains. If the particularities are denied, what emerges has no roots and evokes no commitment.”
The results of these three social trends have produced four marks of a postmodern world which characterize modern religion.
1. Moral Relativism
* This says that what is moral is dictated by a particular situation.
* Particular culture or social location. It says that what is true for you is true for you and what is true for me is true for me.
* This social trend results in broken down morality in the world and in the church.
* Recent studies say that lying is now a trait of American character.
Example: a popular daily syndicated sports commentator often says, “If you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying.”
* This study says 1/3 of all married men and women have had at least one affair.
* Allen Bloom, noted educator, said, “there is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of. Almost every student entering the university believes or says he believes that truth is relative.”
2. Autonomous Individualization
* This value espouses that the individual person is autonomous in terms of destiny and accountability. It says that ultimate moral authority is self generated. We ultimately answer to none but ourselves. Our choices are ours and ours alone and are determined by our own personal pleasure.
* One theologian wrote that the key to heresy is the notion of choice, choosing for oneself over the apostolic tradition.
3. Narcissistic Hedonism
* In Greek mythology, narcissus, upon passing his reflection in the water, became so enamored with himself that he lost thought and fell into the water and drowned.
* This value is I, me, mine mentality that places personal pleasure and fulfillment at the forefront of concern. It says… if it makes you happy and it doesn’t hurt anyone else….then it is okay.
4. Reductive Naturalism
* States that what can be known is only that which can be verified. What is real is that which we can see, taste, hear, smell or touch. If it cannot be examined in a tangible scientific manner, then it is not simply knowable, it is meaningless!
I have come as an apologist for the apostolic doctrine to say that we as a church have a job to do!
We must wade into this society with its values and lies and present the fullness of truth aggressively. All you have to do is go back in the Bible and see how there have been apologists even after the day of the apostles. In fact, there were polemic apologists in the Old Testament.
1. ELIJAH refused to sit by and let the Baal worshippers bring their doctrines into the minds of the people without a challenge. He stood in front of the people and challenged this Godless doctrine.
I Kings 18: 19-22 I Kings 18:24
I Kings 18: 26-29 I Kings 18: 36-39
The apostles were polemic apologists. These great men of God rose up to defend the truth in their day.
2. PETER Acts 3: 12-17
3. STEPHEN Acts 6: 8-10 (KJV)
Notice again Acts 4: 8- 13
4. PAUL Acts 13: 26-33
:c Acts 14: 1-4
Acts 17: 1-4
Jesus is even more pointed with how he feels about his people tolerating error and untruth in the New Testament.
II Cor. 6:14-18 He clearly said in Proverbs 23:23
Buy the truth, and sell it not.
I also remind us of how he felt about those who received not the love of truth.
II Thess. 2: 10-11 We cannot be a set apart or sanctified child of God
* The Bible says that those who change the truth of God are given up to uncleanness by the lusts (desires of their own heart).
* One way truth is changed is when men worship and serve the creature (the flesh) more than they do the Creator.
Roman 1:21- 25 The question is….How do we handle interfaithism?
Gal. 2: 1- 5 Paul’s Example
Wycliffe Commentary says:
* Now the reason for Paul’s bringing Titus along (v.1) becomes evident. He was to be a test case in the matter of Gentile reception into the Church. If he were compelled to be circumcised, the rite could not logically be withheld from other Gentile believers.
* If he emerged from the conference uncircumcised, all other Gentiles who had put their trust in Christ could enjoy their freedom without fear of successful challenge.
* Paul seems to say that some pressure was exerted here to have Titus circumcised (Acts 15:5)
* It is highly unlikely that this pressure came from the apostles, for they stood with Paul. (Acts 15: 19)
* The culprits were the false brethren who had slipped into the ranks of the believers. They bore the name of Christian but were nevertheless opposed to granting that liberty which Paul’s gospel proclaimed- freedom from bondage to the Law, including freedom from circumcision. Paul’s resistance to these Judaizers was not dictated by stubbornness nor by a sense of superiority. He saw that the circumcision issue involved the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:5)
Note that Paul refused to give them even one hour of subjection to their views.
Example: Gal. 2: 11-14
Peter’s fault was that when he came among the Gentile churches, he complied with them, and did eat with them, though they were not circumcised, agreeably to the instructions which were given in particular to him (Acts 10), when he was warned by the heavenly vision to call nothing common or unclean.
But when there came some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, he grew more shy of the Gentiles, only to humor those of the circumcision and for fear of giving them offence, which doubtless was to the great grief and discouragement of the Gentile churches. Then he withdrew, and separated himself.
* That they did not live up to that principle which the gospel taught, and which they had professed to own and embrace, namely, that by the death of Christ the partition wall between Jew and Gentile was taken down, and the observance of the law of Moses was no longer in force.
* He withstood him for trying to make his beliefs user friendly. For trying to not offend either side but fit in with both views.
Paul came in contact with other beliefs in Acts and his handling of it gives us an example.
Acts 17: 16 -23
* He began to refute it and to give his view of truth.
* When he preached truth it made them angry enough to call him names and label him.
* He declared truth! He did not dialogue or fellowship error, he simply declared truth.
* Paul tells us what the real reason for interfaithism is. Gal. 4: 16 -17
* They want to zealously affect you but will shut you out to keep you from affecting them.
* I want us to have the attitude of Paul. Phil. 1: 17 I am set for the defense of the gospel
God is asking his church to be full of grace and truth and to refuse to be religious pluralist or to accept interfaithism and inclusivism. He is calling on us to be set for the defense of the gospel, to be exclusivist about the truth (One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism). He is asking us to reject the effort of the antichrist to draw us into fellowship with false brethren. God is listening for us to speak the truth in love but speak only the truth. It should be the nature of his church to refuse to compromise the essentials of doctrine or to dialogue with false brethren about them. It should be the choice of the church to separate ourselves from untruth and error and ready ourselves as the true bride for His coming.